Friday, August 12, 2011

Going Greek - The Island of Santorini

We left Athens at 8:30 in the morning and touched down on the island of Santorini at 9:15 am. It was an easy flight over the Aegean Sea. We got to see a lot of the islands below us (DB~ always gets the window seat as she's a nervous flyer) and the crystal blue waters.

Santorini's airport is officially the smallest airport I have touched down in. It had 3 gates, but you all entered in and out of the same door. There was 1 baggage carousel.

After collecting our bags, we found the "transport" (their word for shuttle/taxi) that our hotel, the Aethrio, sent for us after we requested it. It was kind of funny to see a Mercedes being used as a taxi. We shared the transport with an Australian couple on honeymoon going to a different hotel, the Laokisti Village. They must have had some serious $$$ as they were on a 1 month honeymoon to Greece, Italy, Spain, and the Czech Republic (his heritage).

You quickly find out that the roadway system on Santorini is not like in Pittsburgh. First, they have no names or numbers on the roads. Second, they are windy as all get out. Third, they are super narrow. At times, going through the little villages during our 30 minute drive to our village of Oia, there was barely enough space for one car to pass another car in the opposite direction.

When we arrived in Oia, we dropped the Aussies off at their place and then were at our dropoff 3 minutes later. We got dropped off in this little parking lot and were met by the porter for the Aethrio. He grabbed our rolling suitcases and then led us through a narrow, cobblestone alleyway to our hotel. Our alleyway had a name, but in Santorini they aren't real big on addresses or names. The alley was just wide enough for 2, maybe 3, people to fit through at a time. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for an invading force to fight their way through these types of streets during less peaceful times of Greece's history.

Our "hotel" had 18 rooms and we were fortunate to request ahead of time their largest suite. It had a little sitting area, the bedroom, a nice shower, and our own private terrace. There were also stairs leading up to the jointly shared Sunset Terrace. From there you could turn one way to see the caldera, the other way out to the sea for the sunset.

Santorini is actually made up of 5 islands. It used to be 1 island until it's volcano (still active today) exploded in 1000 B.C. and ripped a hole in the side, letting the Aegean Sea in to it. Now the main island looks like a backwards C, there are two volcanic islands named New and Old Burnt Island, Therissia, and some other tiny uninhabited island I can't remember.

Oia is perched about 400 feet directly above the sea. They built homes right into the cliffside in a cascading pattern. The main shopping street in Oia, on the ridge top, is made of stone and marble. When you actually come out of the alley and on to the main shopping street, it is very crowded when the cruise ships are in from the island's capital of Fira. But when you make your way to the wall or the top of some series of steps, the view of the caldera takes your breath away the first time you see it.

The white-washed walls of most of the buildings are common to this series of islands in Greece known as the Cyclades. The blue roofs on churches of the Greek Orthodox nature are a landmark, too. There were many windmills at one time on the island, but very few (and none that we saw) are active anymore. But they do help set the mood for a great picture.

For a sleepy little village such as Oia, there were no shortage of great restaurants for us to sample. Some were only steps away from the gate of our hotel.

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